Emergency overnight bus service to Edmonton shelters will remain in place until April despite the city’s severe weather response being turned off on Monday

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The city of Edmonton will deactivate its extreme weather protocol on Monday with positive temperatures on the horizon, eliminating 25 beds from the temporary shelter at Commonwealth Stadium.

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The answer has been in place since December 14 as a prolonged cold snap gripped the city with temperatures frequently below -30 ° C with a risk of imminent frostbite outside. In an update on Friday afternoon, the city said the response would end on Monday and, as a result, the capacity of Commonwealth Stadium would be reduced from 200 to 175 beds. The original plan was to have 150 beds in the absence of extreme weather conditions until the shelter closes at the end of March.

But data from Homeward Trust shows more than 150 people have had 24/7 access to temporary accommodation services since it opened in mid-December.

Even with the response officially turned off, the main protocol will continue until April. The extreme weather bus line that runs two loops will continue to transport residents in need from transit centers to shelters across the city from 10:30 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

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“By expanding our existing service by connecting people from LRT stations to shelters, we are ensuring that people who need access to emergency shelters have a safe and warm way to get there,” said the city.

The decision to end the response comes a day after the city came under fire for its protocol to remove people from light rail stations when they close and instead help find another option for shelter. This protocol entered into force in 2019, where previously the city extended the opening hours of light rail stations, in particular the central station, during extremely cold conditions. But the city now says light rail stations are not a suitable place to spend the night because they are not that hot in cold weather and instead work with social agencies to house people in shelters across the city. city.

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The province, which funded the Commonwealth Stadium shelter and smaller shelters this winter, says there is enough capacity in Edmonton’s shelter system for those in need. According to Homeward Trust, there are currently more than 2,900 homeless people in Edmonton, more than double the total before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alyssa Miller, co-founder of the Boots on Ground outreach and advocacy group, said just because the extreme temperatures are ending doesn’t mean homeless people won’t need support and shelter during the rest of winter. She hopes to see longer-term solutions, such as supportive housing and bridging housing, to break the cycle of temporary shelters.

“You can still get frostbite when it’s above -30 C, you can still get frostbite when you’re exposed for a long time to -15 C. So yeah, maybe we’re going chinook. for two days next week, but that doesn’t solve anything, ”she said. “It’s quite a winter problem.”

The temporary overnight shelter at Al Rashid Mosque is expected to close on Sunday.

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Melvin Z. Madore